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9 Ways to Handle Negative Feedback Without Getting Defensive

9 Ways to Handle Negative Feedback Without Getting Defensive

If you’re truly going to develop as a leader, you can’t do it without great feedback.

The dilemma is that you want to hear ‘well done.’

In fact, you crave positive feedback enough that it’s tempting to only want to hear ‘well done’ rather than the truth.

The irony, of course, is you don’t really get to ‘well done’ without hearing the truth.

I know for me personally, it took a while to develop both a culture and a process for feedback that worked.

Frankly, a lot of the delay was due to my sensitivities and insecurities. I just didn’t want to hear negative feedback.

Don’t get me wrong, I often heard negative feedback.

Sometimes the negative feedback was from people who were off-mission or who were honestly just negative people. While you can always glean a nugget from even your worst critic, feedback from off-mission or negative people rarely helps you develop your fullest potential.

The best feedback you can receive is from people who believe in your mission, who support you and who love you. More than anyone else, they are in the best position to see your faults and help you through them.

Feedback from them is gold.

It took me a few years to figure out how to get feedback from the right people that was also deeply constructive.

And now that I find myself in a place where helpful, truthful feedback is part of the culture, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Hearing the truth about your leadership and acting on it is the only way you can really grow as a leader long term. Honest feedback is fundamental to cultivating a deepening self-awareness.

The self-aware leader is a growing leader. And growing leaders are the best leaders.

Here are nine approaches and practices that will help you develop a culture of honest feedback without getting defensive.

1. Ask for it

Don’t expect people to volunteer their opinions.

Some will, but they can often be off-mission, negative people and not the people you want to hear from anyway (here’s a post outlining seven signs you’re dealing with a negative person, and another one on constructing a feedback filter).

Ask people who are on mission.

What happens if you don’t ask for input?

Well, people will still give honest feedback if you don’t ask for it; you’ll just never hear it. And that’s bad for everyone.